AHA Takes On Racial Disparities in Care, Leadership

Cheryl Clark, July 19, 2011

Hospitals have a serious problem with their lack of executive diversity, American Hospital Association President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock acknowledged Monday.

"I know it's a problem, just looking out at the audience" of 1,300 executives attending AHA's 19th Annual Leadership Summit in San Diego this week, he said during an interview.

And they know they need to address racial and ethnic disparities in care and increase their language and cultural literacy, tailored to the communities they serve.

So the AHA took a bold step Monday to elevate the profile of disparities and diversity, to persuade member organizations to give the issues more focus. It called on all hospitals to take three steps to improve in a campaign they call Equity of Care.

First, the AHA wants all hospitals to begin collecting race, ethnicity, and language information on all patients, whether they enter hospitals through the emergency room or to a treatment floor. The AHA has helped to develop a National Quality Forum "best practice" computerized tool kit that allows hospital personnel an easy way to log this information in for each patient.

Second, there's a great need to increase cultural competency in the training of clinicians and support staff. "We want to make sure that all hospital personnel who have patient contact get cultural competency training," Umbdenstock said.

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